Subscribe to our blog to get articles delivered directly to your inbox

Orchid Growth Habits: The Fascinating Life Cycle of Growing Orchids

November 16, 2023

What is the life cycle of growing orchids? What are some orchid growth habits? It's more complicated than you might think. Did you know that when you pick up a Just Add Ice® orchid at your favorite retail store, it took about two years to grow into the beauty it is now?

Our orchids are so easy to care for that you also may not realize all the work that goes into growing them. Our growers do all that work for you so that by the time you take your orchid home, all you have to do is remember to water it once a week with ice cubes.

If you’ve always wondered where your orchids come from and how they grow, here’s a glimpse into the secret lives of orchids in our greenhouse.

Understanding Orchid Growth Habits

Understanding the growth habits of orchids extends beyond their physical appearance; it delves into their life cycle. When you bring home a Just Add Ice® orchid, you're welcoming a botanical marvel that took years of work!

Is Your Orchid Epiphytic or Terrestrial?

One of the first things you should know about orchids is that most orchids being cultivated, including Phalaenopsis orchids, are epiphytes. “Epiphyte” is a Greek term meaning “grow on a plant” or “air plant." Unlike a terrestrial plant, which grows on the ground, an epiphyte grows on a tree or rock, and its roots are exposed to the air instead of buried underground. However, it is not a parasite; it merely perches on another plant to get its nutrients and moisture from rain, air and debris.

The Orchid Life Cycle

1. An Orchid Is Born


Although we grow orchids locally, most of our Phalaenopsis orchids come from Europe or Asia. They start out as tissue cultures, which are the results of a crossing between two different parent varieties. These crossings are made by a breeder.

It takes two years for each seed to germinate and develop into a unique individual flowering plant. Our growers examine these individual plants for several factors, including:

  • Color
  • Size and height compared to our expected growth
  • Number of leaves and blooms within the time frame
  • Susceptibility to disease

New varieties that pass our list of criteria are sent to a specialized laboratory where each unique variety is multiplied through a process called in-vitro propagation. This results in individual tissue-cultured plants.

This part of the orchid life cycle takes a long time, but it’s worth the wait!

2. The Orchid Graduates to the Greenhouse


Once the orchid tissue cultured plant has developed enough, it 'graduates' to our greenhouse. It receives plenty of light, and we continually adjust the temperature and humidity as it grows. The orchid goes through two cycles of growing and repotting before it’s ready to bloom. The greenhouse includes our state-of-the-art grading system to determine orchid quality, the only one of its kind in North America. 

Also all of the water used in the growing process is 100% recycled and reused. With drought concerns facing growers worldwide, rain water has become a vital irrigation source. Our retention ponds collect 1.5 million gallons of fresh water for every one inch of rainfall received.

3. The Orchid Continues Growing

greenhouse-robot-scanner (1)

At this point, the orchid has been growing for one year, but it still needs several more months to develop. As it grows, we’ll continue to monitor its progress, evaluating its growth and plant health.

We use advanced scanning technology to ensure each plant reaches its growth milestones before graduating to another section of the greenhouse. If it doesn’t measure up, it doesn’t move on.

4. The First Blooms Emerge


This is our favorite part! After seeing only roots and leaves for so long, our growers are always excited to see the first bloom. It takes some coaxing (and a little magic). To trigger orchid blooming, we move the orchid from a warm section of the greenhouse to another area that’s cooler. The orchid will get its 'baby spikes' first. Then, after about 15 weeks of growth, that magic moment happens.

5. The Orchid Goes Through Trials


We want to make sure all of our growing orchids have a consistent size, appearance, quality and health no matter where you buy them. That’s why we put our orchids through a series of trials. That includes testing the pH levels of the soil, evaluating different potting media and examining color consistency.

6. The Orchid Is Ready for Its New Home

Lavender Watercolor Orchid Lifestyle

Once the orchid is mature, it’s moved to a staging area where it will live for four weeks before traveling to a retail store near you. After it has found a new home, you can expect it to stay in bloom for up to three months before going into a nine-month resting period.

And by following a few easy steps, you can coax it to rebloom again!

Explore our variety of colorful options as a perfect addition to any interior space. To learn more about growing orchids and how to care for your Phalaenopsis orchid, check out our complete guide to orchid care.

 Your Complete Guide for Every Stage of Orchid Life